The Technical Interview: Solving Anagrams with Object Maps
Two useful approaches for solving anagram questions.

What are anagrams?

Anagrams are different words that are composed of the same characters.

Comparing Two Strings

If you are only comparing 2 strings to determine if they are anagrams and returning true or false, then a sorted comparison is your quickest solution

function sortStringHelper(str) {
  return [...str].sort().join('');
function anagram(strA, strB) {
  return sortStringHelper(strA) === sortStringHelper(strB);
anagram('lions', 'loins') // True

Hint: Clean a string with:

str.replace(/[^\w]/g, '').toLowerCase();

Character Maps

This can also be solved by using what is known as a character map, which is a record of each character and its occurrence. For example, a map of the word food:

const characterMap = {
  f: 1,
  o: 2,
  d: 1

So to solve for an anagram, you would build out two characterMaps and compare them.

function buildCharMap(string) {
  const charMap = {};

  for (let character of string) {
    if (!charMap[character]) {
      charMap[character] = 1;
    } else {

  return charMap;

function anagram(strA, strB) {
  const charMapA = buildCharMap(strA); 
  const charMapB = buildCharMap(strB);

  // if the number of characters or keys are different they are not anagrams
  if (Object.keys(charMapA).length !== Object.keys(charMapB)) {
    return false;  

  // otherwise compare the maps
  for (let character in charMapA) {
    if(charMapA[character] !== charMapB[character]) {
      return false;

  // otherwise, we have anagrams
  return true; 

This approach begins to shine, when solving more complex anagram problems

For example:

  1. Find all anagrams in an array of strings.
  2. Return groups of anagrams from an array of strings.

Build an object that has the following attributes

  • keys: sorted characters
  • values: array of words or anagrams of that character set
function find_anagrams(arr) {
  const sortMap = {};
  const anagrams = [];
  //const anagramGroups = [];

  for (let word of arr) {
    const sortedKey = word.split('').sort().join('');

    if(!sortMap[sortedKey]) {
      sortMap[sortedKey] = [word]
    } else {

  /* now the map is built
     return sortMap;
    so now all we must do is iterate the map
    and return the arrays larger than 1
    this is because if there is only 1, then there are no anagrams
  for (let key in sortMap) {
    if(sortMap[key].length > 1) {
      //if you want them grouped, then use anagramGroup.push(sortMap[key]);
  return anagrams;

Character maps can also be used to solve these related questions:

  1. What is the most common character in a string?
  2. Does the string have repeated characters?
let maxChar = '';
let maxCharVal = 0;

for (let char in charMap) {
  if (charMap[char] > maxCharVal) {
    maxChar = char;
    maxCharVal = charMap[char];